A car accident, no matter the severity, will have an impact on the lives of those involved. The biggest impact to most people following a car accident is the financial strain, as car repairs, towing fees, insurance rates, medical care, and other related costs such as lost wages add up to create an overwhelming bill many fear they will be unable to pay. This is where a personal injury attorney comes in.
Any accident-related injury or property damage case requires proof of negligence by another driver and evidence that the victim’s injuries and property damage are a direct result of this negligence. Considering that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff in a personal injury case, opposing attorneys, such as those working for the defendants and insurance companies, will attempt to cast doubt on the victims’ claims to minimize the penalties and payouts owed.
Car accident victims may be entitled to compensation, especially if they suffer injuries or extensive vehicle damage due to the negligence of another driver. A personal injury attorney will assist clients however they can, which in most cases requires the attorney to identify, address, and resolve any challenges that could derail their pursuit of a fair settlement.
To fully understand the value of a personal injury attorney and how they can be an asset in getting compensated following a car accident, people must first understand what a personal injury attorney is and what they do.
What is a Personal Injury Attorney?
A personal injury attorney represents clients who suffered physical harm or property damage due to the negligence of another party. The attorney will provide various legal supports to their client, which will vary depending on the needs of the case.
Often, these attorneys will represent their client during a civil personal injury case; however, this is only one aspect of the post-accident process.
A personal injury attorney has a license to practice law from their state. This means that a client can check the license status with their state’s bar association at any point. Knowing this, most attorneys will provide their clients with the necessary information so that the client can perform this verification if they see fit.
Once a client signs a representation agreement with an attorney, the attorney must now represent their client’s best interests throughout the entirety of the case – so long as that is what was agreed upon in the original contract. This can include negotiating an insurance settlement, working with the defense’s attorneys to agree to a pre-trial settlement, engaging in mediation as a last effort to avoid court, and advising clients on the best course of action given the evidence in the case.
Role of a Personal Injury Attorney
The role of a personal injury attorney will vary depending on the logistics of the case. Because they have familiarity with state and local laws concerning liability, insurance coverage, and what constitutes a duty of care on the state’s roads, they are a great resource to have in general, but particularly when dealing with the intricacies of a car accident claim.
For example, personal injury attorneys often advise clients about their rights when dealing with insurance companies, as different states have their own distinct laws concerning accident coverage. In no-fault states, the liable party pays for the property damage, but each driver must have their own personal injury protection (PIP) policy to cover injuries. In at-fault states, the negligent driver is responsible for covering both the property and injury costs.
Since insurers are for-profit organizations, meaning their main goal is to satisfy their shareholders above all else, they often pursue a policy of quick settlements to limit potential payouts. A personal injury attorney will help the victim determine whether a settlement is fair or fails to cover all property (at-fault and no-fault states) and injury (at-fault states) costs.
Personal injury attorneys will also help their clients to take the case through the negotiation and mediation process, reaching a pre-trial settlement when applicable. During these times, the attorney will present all relevant evidence to the defense in an effort to persuade them to settle. Because at the end of the day, taking the case to court, especially with strong supporting evidence to back the claim, will typically cost the opposition more than if they chose to settle beforehand. In this case, the other party may seek a settlement to avoid a costly civil trial they are likely to lose.
Finally, an attorney can assist with challenges like comparative negligence claims. In comparative negligence states, a defendant can claim the plaintiff is partly responsible. Though, the final compensation awarded must match the percentage of liability. This means that if the victim forgot to wear their seatbelt, they are now liable for a portion of the total injuries claimed, as their own negligence is responsible for some of the reported injuries. If proven that the victim was 20% liable for their injuries, the defendant would only have to pay 80% of the awarded amount.
Reasons for Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
Victims should consult with an attorney as soon as they are able following a car accident, as the attorney will be able to guide them through the post-accident process. In addition to legal guidance, there are many reasons to consult with a personal injury attorney, including:
- By hiring a personal injury attorney, accident victims suffering from severe injuries due to their accident will be able to focus on their recovery while the attorney will deal with the various components of the case, such as submitting the claim and addressing the comparative negligence challenges.
- Insurance companies employ their own accident attorneys who are intimately familiar with the applicable laws and various strategies for limiting claim payouts. Hiring a personal injury attorney levels the playing field for the victim, who likely has little to no experience navigating these processes and legalities.
- An attorney will know exactly what to say and how to say it, so they can speak on behalf of their client to avoid any misconstrued statements that insurers or defense attorneys can use against them. The attorney can also prepare their client for an official deposition or testimony to help ensure that the client does not say anything that could harm their case.
- A personal injury attorney can represent the family of a victim killed in an auto accident to get compensation for lost income, pain and suffering, and a loss of companionship or consortium. This will allow the family the time and space to mourn and grieve their loss as they have the reassurance that their attorney is focusing on the case.
- Injuries sustained from an accident can affect a person’s ability to work, so by hiring a personal injury attorney, they will seek compensation for the lost wages.
Legal processes are complicated to navigate alone, so everyone, especially those confused by the post-accident process, would benefit from a legal consultation as they will receive timely and relevant legal advice to help them determine their next steps.
Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
While there are many reasons to hire a personal injury attorney, there are even more benefits to doing so, some of which include:
- Experienced attorneys understand the legal process and tactics used by insurance companies to limit payouts. They will also handle the negotiations, improving the chances of receiving a fair settlement.
- They can offer an array of legal insights, such as helping the victim understand what they can expect from a settlement or what can be claimed and covered within the payout, such as lost wages, medical treatment, and pain and suffering. They understand what constitutes a viable case for each of these areas so that the client can avoid wasting their time and money pursuing claims that are likely to fail.
- The attorney will manage the negotiations and communications so the client can avoid getting emotionally involved in the case, as the trauma from the accident may be exacerbated if the client is forced to relive the accident numerous times throughout the process.
- The personal injury attorney will take care of all the legal documents and paperwork associated with the case, limiting the time investment the client needs to make.
While the reasons for and benefits of hiring a personal injury attorney extend far beyond what has been mentioned, there is still one more essential component to understand when hiring an attorney following a car accident, which is: when is the best time to book the initial consultation.
When to Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
It is best to start the process of hiring an attorney immediately after an accident. Because of this, personal injury attorneys will typically offer a free consultation where they can assess the merits of a case and decide whether they have the time, resources, and expertise to take it on. Once a client signs the representation agreement, the attorney will start representing the client immediately.
Personal injury attorneys often receive compensation based on successful settlements or trial victories, so they are unlikely to waste the client’s time by taking cases with limited chances of success.
Suppose there are nuances to the case, such as questions about liability in a comparative negligence state. In that case, it is best to consult an attorney before settling or making any statements other than to identify yourself with law enforcement and insurance companies.
Any cases involving significant property damage, life-changing injuries, fatalities, or other complicated elements of a claim will require the services of a personal injury attorney.
Know Your Rights
After a motor collision, the victim should refrain from making any statements that admit fault. For this reason, the general rule is that it is best to limit admissions to the basic facts.
In New York, accident victims must deal with legal nuances, such as comparative negligence and no-fault insurance. What this means is that in this state, personal injury lawsuits require significant, life-altering injuries.
Micheal B. Schulman and Associates has four decades of experience dealing with personal injury cases involving car accidents. Every single one of their attorneys will take the time to understand the unique aspects of each case so that they can provide specific advice and create an expert plan for pursuing fair compensation.
Car accident victims needing to consult or hire an experienced personal injury attorney should contact Micheal B. Schulman to get the process started. This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as direct legal advice. If you have recently been in a car accident and are in need of related legal advice, we advise booking a consultation with a personal injury attorney in your area.